After a fairly calm and mild winter, work on the farm is starting up again. Russell is working long days to get ready for the upcoming planting season – which means he has to get up early on weekends to go check sprinklers.
Selfishly, I love my early weekend mornings, alone with my coffee and without any real obligations. I spend these precious hours leisurely reading outside or baking while watching girly movies. Truly, I don’t think that there is anything more pleasant than watching Pride and Prejudice with a batch of cookies in the oven.
This past weekend, I found myself with limited baking supplies. No buttermilk to make my grandma’s chocolate sheet cake. No peaches for a peach cobbler. No apples for an apple pie.
And then I remembered a recipe for snickerdoodle cookies that I used to make all the time. I haven’t made this recipe in years – and I’m not quite sure why not. They’re soft in the middle, light and crispy around the edges, with an intense cinnamon flavor. And, they went wonderfully with my lazy morning and pot of coffee.
Makes 20 cookies
1 stick of butter, softened (almost melted)
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp of cream of tartar
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of salt
Cinnamon and sugar mixture
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Once light and fluffy, add in egg and beat well. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Fold flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Chill dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll dough into 1.5 inch balls and roll through the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Cook for 10-11 minutes, or until edges begin to get crispy. Let sit on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and before transferring to a cooling rack.
Every now and then, I buy bananas, resolving that I’m going to eat more fruit. But, I don’t eat more fruit, and the bananas quickly get too ripe. At which point, I’m forced to bake with them. It’s a tough sacrifice to make.
Today, having two overly ripe bananas, I decided to make miniature banana cakes. And what goes better with banana than peanut butter and chocolate? Nothing.
And thus, these were born:
Mini Banana Cakes with Cinnamon Peanut Butter Frosting
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
2 very ripe bananas
splash of lemon juice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat until mixed well. To this mixture, add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and vinegar. Stir in mashed up bananas and lemon juice until just mixed.
Grease 5 ramekins and distribute the batter evenly. Cook until edges just begin to brown and a toothpick comes out clean (about 35 minutes). Transfer the cakes directly to the freezer and let them cool completely.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner sugar
2 teaspoons (or to taste) cinnamon
Splash of vanilla
Beat together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until mixed well and slightly stiff. Add cinnamon and vanilla – to taste.
Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the ramekins. Cut in half to create a layered cake. Spread peanut butter between layers and frost the rest of the cake. Garnish with chocolate chips.
Things have been a little crazy around here lately. Being busy with work and school – and having a husband busy with harvest – means that a lot of things aren’t getting done around the house. For example, I only yesterday recognized that although I’m still wearing flip flops, shorts, and white, it is actually Fall. So, I bought some pumpkins to carve – with just a few days to spare before Halloween. Then I went to Hobby Lobby to get some Fall decorations – and I found that there were 7 aisles of Christmas decorations. Overwhelmed, I left with nothing.
Early this morning, my dogs wanted to go outside. I got up to let them out, and there was snow falling from the sky. I was definitely not prepared for that. I’m still stuck in Summer – and mother nature seems to think it’s Winter. I can only think that after the driest hottest summer on record, five inches of snow in October has to be some sort of cruel joke.
But, I figure that I might as well make the most of it. We built our first fire in the new house. I must say, curled up by the fire is a wonderful way to spend a day. There’s certainly something true to the lyrics “the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.”
The dogs enjoyed playing outside… and then joining me by the fire.
And it wouldn’t be a snow day without some soup. I had been craving Russell’s roasted tomato soup for a while now, so a snowy day is the perfect excuse to satisfy that craving. I like that his soup is so broth-y and there’s no cream. We had homemade chicken stock, some garden-grown tomatoes, and snow-covered basil – and those flavors really shine in this soup.
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Start by cutting up 20 or so cherry tomatoes, slicing 1/4 of a white onion, and mincing 3 cloves of garlic. Coat with a tablespoon of garlic oil and add some salt and pepper. Roast on 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then, mash up into a sort of puree.
In a saucepan, heat up chicken broth and add the puree. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Add basil right before serving.
I picked pumpkin for my October super food for obvious reasons. According to SuperFoodsRX, “The nutrients in pumpkin are really world class. Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man.”
Sounds great! Now, one question, how do I actually eat pumpkin?
I posed that question to a number of my friends and family, and the conversation always followed the same pattern:
Me: What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin?
Friend: Definitely as a pie!
Me: Well, I was hoping for savory dish or two.
Friend: Hmmm… then soup!
Pie always beats soup in my mind, and two days ago I made my first pumpkin pie. And here’s all that’s left of it:
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups Crisco
- 3 cups flour
- 1 egg
- 5 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
In a bowl, combine Crisco and flour, cutting with the tines of a fork or pastry cutter for 4-5 minutes. Add and mix together egg, water, white vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt.
Separate the dough in half and put into zip-lock baggies and flatten the dough to make make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until needed. This is supposed to help with the flakiness.
On a floured surface roll the slightly thawed dough, rolling in only one direction at a time (not back and forth). With a spatula, lift the dough from the surface into the pie pan. I greased the pie pan, just in case, and the crust didn’t stick at all.
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 can of pumpkin
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup 2% milk
- Pinch of salt
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves to taste. I like a spicier pie, so used about 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2-1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
Mix all ingredients together. The filling was veeeery runny and completely filled my deep-dish pie crust. The recipe instructed to cook for 20 minutes on 450 degrees and 25 on 350 degrees – but this was no where close to enough time. I left it in for another 40 minutes after the suggested cooking time was up. I used a ceramic pie dish instead of a metal one – perhaps that was the difference.
The pie crust was fantastic. Very flaky and so easy to make. The added cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar really gave it something extra. This will certainly be my go to pie crust instead of the store bought ones!
The pie filling was tasty as well, although I think I’m used to a richer pie filling. I think next time I’ll try Paula Deen’s cream cheese filled recipe…
Yesterday, I wrote about my friends coming to visit for a girl’s weekend. We don’t have a lot of restaurants in the area, so I cooked most of the meals for the weekend. I didn’t want my time with them to be spent slaving away in the kitchen, so I tried to pick meals that I could prepare in advance.
One dish that I made, and that they all asked for me to post online (you’re welcome!), was a roasted pepper and tomato salad, served with fresh french bread.
This has been one of mine and Russell’s favorite summer treats. I adapted it from a recipe found in The Provencal Cookbook. Beautiful cookbook, by the way.
What you’ll need…
3 large red bell peppers
6 roma tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
6 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
Splash of white wine
Salt and Pepper
Start by roasting 3 red bell peppers. I didn’t know how to roast peppers before I made this recipe the first time, so here’s the skinny…
Rinse and dry bell peppers. Skewer them with a fork, or use tongs to rotate the pepper. Place over an open flame, like a burner on your stove. Allow the skin to char. Once the whole pepper is charred, remove from heat and put it in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes. Then, rinse away the skin and you’re left with wonderful, delicious roasted peppers. Here’s a pic:
Now, obviously, that isn’t a red bell pepper. But, it’s the only photo I have of roasting peppers.
Cut the peppers into strips, discarding the seeds. Put the pepper strips into a foil pouch. Cook at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut 6 roma tomatoes in half. Place cut side down on a cutting board and squish out some of the juice. Let drain for about 10 minutes and discard the excess juice.
Then, place cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Take out peppers and tomatoes and let cool. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Leave tomatoes in halves or cut them smaller if you prefer. In a separate bowl, combine tomatoes and the peppers, with any juices from the peppers.
For the dressing, combine remaining olive oil, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and wine. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. It should be a nice balance between sweet and tangy.
Pour onto the tomatoes and peppers and stir gently. It’s best if you refrigerate the salad and let the flavors mingle for at least 30 minutes before eating.
Growing up, I went through a horrible pattern of being best friends with someone for a year or two and then having a falling out and never talking to that friend again. I realize know it was an example of immaturity, selfishness, and not really knowing who I was.
I went to college and met amazing friends who helped me discover the real me and showed me what a lasting friendship looks like. They have been there for me every single day for the past seven years – even on days that I don’t see them or talk to them, I have the millions of wonderful memories we made together. I feel so lucky to have some of the very best friends in the world – friends who are loyal, kind, fun, creative, smart, pretty, funny…. I could go on with nice things to say for days.
This past weekend, three of those dear friends came to visit the farm for a girl’s weekend. See, I told you they are pretty.
They came at an exciting time on the farm – it’s time to chop corn. (I suppose exciting is subjective…) While the corn plants are still green, they are chopped to create silage for animal feed. So, we visited a corn field and watched the chopping crew finish a field. My friends had seen my previous post about “entertaining” guests with tractor rides. And they were eager for their turn on a tractor!
Emily wanted to cross “shooting a gun” off of her bucket list. Where better to do that than a farm in West Texas?
Of course, we cooked and baked.
(And, as you can see in the picture, we made a mess of my kitchen!)
Then, we put on our cowboy boots for a barn dance hosted at my brother- and sister-in-law’s barn.
We made cake balls and pops for the barn dance. Before my friends came to town, I read a bajillion different blogs about cake pops and the common problems that people have. And they still didn’t turn out just right. Too much icing, I think. But, we still had a lot of fun making and decorating them.
My friends left me yesterday to go back to the “real” world, leaving behind a bunch of new memories – and SO much left over food! Including leftover cake. (Side note – how do four women leave behind so much cake??)
I didn’t want to throw it away so decided to make trifles out of it – or at least a super easy, West Texas version of a trifle. Since I had already crumbled the cakes up for the cake balls, I just smooshed the crumbs into muffin tins and baked them for another 10 minutes. To be honest… I was surprised that worked out as well as it did.
Meanwhile, I used this recipe for vanilla pudding, tripling the recipe, substituting skim milk, and cutting back the sugar a little. It’s a great pudding recipe – creamy and not too sweet.
Once the pudding and cupcakes were cooled, I sliced some strawberries and started putting together the trifles. I cut the “cupcakes” into 8 pieces, putting 3 or 4 pieces into a jar. Next go in 4 slices of strawberry. Then, it’s covered with pudding. And I repeated that process until the jar was full.
So, I have Funfetti trifles:
And french vanilla trifles:
NOW, as a reward for reading the LONGEST blog post ever, I’m hosting my first ever giveaway! See those super cute aprons my friends and I were wearing when we made cake pops?
You could be wearing one too! I got them as thank you gifts for traveling alllll the way to West Texas. The aprons are from Anthropologie and, in my opinion, too cute for words. But, I accidentally bought too many. I mean…. I purposely bought one extra to give away to YOU…
Winning is easy – just leave a comment below and/or follow me on Twitter (@andruswilliams) for a second chance to win. If you’re already following me on Twitter and want to enter again, just leave another comment. Enter before Midnight on Friday and I’ll announce the winner this weekend!
UPDATE – We have a winner! Congratulations Kat from Tenaciously Yours. Send your address to andruswilliams2010 (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your super awesome apron
One of my goals for this year is to eat more super foods, achieved by focusing on a new super food each month. September happens to be the month of oats. According to SuperFoodsRX.com, “Oats are low in calories, high in fiber and protein. They’re a rich source of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and pantothenic acid.” And WebMD.com explains that oats and other foods high in fiber help achieve “healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.”
So far, “focusing on oats” has meant making and eating oatmeal cookies. But, hey, it’s the beginning of the month still.
When I got home from my visit to the Texas Hill Country, I had a hankering to bake. After my run in with oatmeal muffins with Nutella frosting (which I now know are sure to improve my blood sugar….), I figured I should make something that uses up the little Nutella I had left.
And an idea was born.
Peanut butter. Oatmeal. Nutella. Cookie. Sandwiches.
Based on my favorite PB and oatmeal cookies, I substituted Nutella for some of the sugar. And this cookie was born:
With less sugar than my original recipe, the cookies aren’t too sweet. The Nutella flavor isn’t over powering – ultimately, the Nutella and peanut butter mix well.
Now, as if that wasn’t enough, I thought I should make cookie sandwiches using peanut butter frosting for the filling.
And because I’m really bad, I laid in bed last night dreaming of dipping the cookie sandwiches in Nutella and crushed peanuts. But, alas, my jar of Nutella is empty.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup extra chunky peanut butter
3 heaping spoonfuls of Nutella
Mix together all ingredients. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Use a teaspoon measuring spoon to form balls of dough, leaving plenty of room between since the cookies spread out quite a bit while cooking. Cook on 350 for 9 minutes. Makes about 28 cookies.
For the frosting, just beat together 3 heaping spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter with 2-3 spoonfuls of powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Spread between two cookies. Makes 14 sandwiches, unless you eat some of the cookies before they’re made into sandwiches. Not that I did that or anything…..
I love coming home to visit my parents because they make all of their new favorite dishes, instead of staying with my old childhood favorites. New dish after new dish makes it feel like going to a new restaurant every night – except I don’t have to change out of my yoga pants.
My mom made this dish as an appetizer this weekend. Talk about a ton of flavor packed into a pretty easy to make dish. It was perfect for the Texas heat – light and fresh.
We ate it as a dip with chips but all agreed it would also be great on fish too. Or with black beans. Or just eaten with a spoon, for that matter.
Corn and Avocado Relish
16 oz canned corn, drained
4.5 oz sliced, canned black olives, drained
1 red pepper, chopped
4 large avocados, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine everything except avocado and chill overnight. Add the chunks of avocado right before serving.
Yesterday, we found a nice man selling roasted green chiles out of the back of his truck. New York City has fake Kate Spade purses in trunks; we have roasted green chiles.
As I was laying them out to cool, Russell instructed me to put green chiles in everything I make. Even if I’m making him cereal.
So, following his instructions, I added green chiles and some fresh sweet corn to my mom’s corn bake recipe. The chiles and corn were the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, added to an already delicious dish.
Green Chile Corn Bake
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 stick butter (melted)
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn (undrained)
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
3 roasted green chiles, de-seeded and diced
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together all ingredients and pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook for 1 hour, until edges start browning.
Easy peasy. But so delicious.
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This past weekend, Russell and I went to the Big City (I never thought I would describe a city of 270,000 as “big”) to buy a grill and outdoor furniture – neither of which we got.
Instead, we drove an hour and a half so that a piece of equipment could be stolen from his truck while we were eating lunch. Good times.
But, I did find Nutella, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste of a day.
I don’t think I’ve had Nutella since I was a kid, and Russell had never had it. For the past few days, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember how I used to eat it, but all I can remember is eating it out of the jar with a spoon.
Or, more likely, my finger.
It turns out, Russell’s not down with eating a chocolatey spread with his finger. It’s one of his few flaws. So, I made oatmeal muffins, with a Nutella frosting. And now Russell is a Nutella convert.
I much prefer putting frosting on a muffin rather than a cupcake. Somehow it seems healthier.
And these muffins actually are fairly healthy – the whole grains make a pretty hearty muffin and not too much sugar means they’re not too sweet. They got the Russell seal of approval for healthy carbs.
Considering they are really just a vessel for getting Nutella frosting into your mouth, there’s no sense loading the muffins down with sugar and fat.
(Makes 6 muffins)
Start by soaking 1/2 a cup of old-fashioned oats with 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Soak until the oats are soft, about 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine and stir until just mixed:
- a little less than 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
- 3 teaspoons of egg whites
- a splash of vanilla
In another bowl, combine:
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Once the oats are soft, combine all of the ingredients and stir until just mixed.
Divide into 6 greased muffin tins. Bake for 14 minutes at 375, or until it passes the toothpick test. Turn out and let cool on a wired rack.
(for 6 muffins)
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1/8 cup powdered sugar
- a little more than 1/4 cup Nutella
Beat on high until a cream frosting is made.
Once the muffins are cool, spread frosting on top.
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